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CBO: GOP health bill reduces deficit, but leaves 23M uninsured

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, right,

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, right, accompanied by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 23, 2017, following after a Republican policy luncheon. Credit: AP

WASHINGTON — The House-passed health care bill embraced by President Donald Trump would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion but leave 23 million fewer people insured over a decade, according to a long-anticipated analysis released Wednesday by the independent Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO study of the previous version of the American Health Care Act had projected greater savings — $150 billion — but also said 1 million more people — 24 million — would have been left insured.

Republicans immediately seized on the projected reductions to the deficit and some premiums as Democrats focused on the millions who would be left without insurance. The differing responses to the CBO report added to the uncertainty of how the bill is being received in the Senate, where some in the GOP are writing their own version.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) cited the report’s finding that the new bill would lower average premiums for insurance purchased individually.

“This CBO report again confirms that the American Health Care Act achieves our mission: lowering premiums and lowering the deficit,” Ryan said in a statement. “It is another positive step toward keeping our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

However, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) repeated her case that the bill makes cuts to care for the vulnerable in order to fund Trump’s proposal to lower taxes for the wealthy.

She said the “Trumpcare bill” “means higher costs, 23 million hard-working Americans losing coverage, shredding key protections, a crushing age tax and stealing from Medicare.”

The White House attacked the CBO’s credibility.

“History has proven the CBO to be totally incapable of accurately predicting how healthcare legislation will impact health insurance coverage,” a senior official said on the condition of anonymity, condemning Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, as “disastrous.”

The legislation passed the House on May 4 by a razor-thin margin. Ryan had pulled the earlier bill just before a vote March 24 because it didn’t have enough backing amid sparring GOP factions.

He secured passage through amendments, the most high-profile of which opened the door to insurers considering health history to increase charges on those with a gap in coverage. Under Obamacare, those with pre-existing conditions could not be charged more, but the amendment allows states to seek waivers from that and other mandates.

The CBO said the savings in the House-approved bill would be reaped largely through reductions to Medicaid — $834 billion in 10 years — and by replacing nongroup health insurance subsidies with tax credits.

It determined that in states that receive waivers, some premiums would go up and those with pre-existing conditions could be at risk. “Community-rated premiums would rise over time, and people who are less healthy . . . would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive nongroup health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all,” the CBO wrote.

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